Are sustainable cities within the reach of science?


Key words: smart city, sustainable development, building, design, performance, standardization, citizenship.

The interest cities arouse not only concerns issues but also the conditions in which they are perceived and analysed. It also raises the interest of social issues inherent to the importance of its role in the development that our society will face in the future decades.

Furthermore, sustainable development is a major social issue that applies to everyone. We are questioning the conditions in which its principles will be acknowledged and implemented; especially in the framework of the development of increasingly "urbanized" societies (80% of the world population will be urban in a few decades).

Issues related to cities, combined with sustainable development, are anchor points which result in a better understanding and coordination of a specific space: live, build, produce and occupy a collective space increasingly limited under the constraints of sustainable development.

However, sustainable development includes a conceptual whole which has spread in society almost exclusively on an institutional level. We are faced with the following dilemma: although various imbalances (climate, biodiversity, etc.) are not immediately felt by the population, they are asked, individually, to incorporate small gestures representing, in practice, the basic principles of sustainable development into their daily lives. Thus, the superposition of long term and short term leads to a number of ambiguities or inconsistencies that should be considered.

The sustainable city is not immune to this ambivalence. If everything indicates that solutions fight for better control of societal aspects then scientific aspects and techniques must occupy an equally important place in the current debate. This requires close cooperation between social science, humanities and the exact sciences by mutual enrichment in a common domain.

Can a dialogue, hence, be initiated between all the sciences that have tackled environmental issues? We could have taken into account what legitimized each of the sciences mentioned and imagined the possible exchanges between the two well-defined bodies (“hard” sciences and humanities). But it seemed preferable to start with the objectives that all the researchers give themselves when their research is aimed at finding solutions to issues in contemporary human societies and in the environment they inhabit. This is the particular goal that sustainable development has set for several decades and which is, today, upheld by a majority of actors. This field may bring together many disciplines working towards the same purpose but the controversies concerning sustainable cities remain.

We suggest conducting a joint discussion that will lead to practical conclusions. This is the main reason that incited our colleagues from the exact sciences of our university and us to organize this conference which aims to establish vital dialogues within a defined axis. Proposals for sessions should be read from two points of view: on the one hand, based on specific SHS lighting; on the other hand, through queries about scientific and technical aspects. These constitute two aspects in the melting pot of our respective queries. Therefore, at the crossroads of what the exact sciences and humanities can question collectively by catering to all paradigms, we suggest the following four components.


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